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George, It's Ogged

Posted by Ogged
on 09.05.03

If political leaders were as dense as Bud Selig, we could have transparency in government!

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig apparently thought he was talking with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien in a 12-minute telephone conversation that aired on a Montreal radio station Tuesday.
They talked about the Expos and the commish wondered why the Canadian leader hadn't contacted him long before about the plight of the team.
In fact, Selig was talking to Marc-Antoine Audette of Les Justiciers Masques (Blind Justices), a group known to listeners of CKOI for its pranks. But Selig, who apparently knows of Chretien, obviously does not know of Audette and his Chretien impersonations.
According to various Canadian newspapers, Selig described saving the Expos for Montreal as "mission impossible." He also blamed the Expos' problems on former minority partners, calling their actions "appalling."

 

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What Mendacious Deeds?

Posted by Ogged
on 09.05.03

Apropos of the previous post (or maybe not, I'm never sure I'm reading Ted correctly), jhp has a nice post on a report that the administration didn't even begin planning the WMD hunt until very late in the game. jhp examines the possible explanations.

There are only two explanations for the short shrift given to securing the supposed target of the war by the same planning corps that found a way to conquer Iraq in under a month. One, the administration did not think there would be any weapons to find. Two, the administration thought the weapons would all be lying in the street with pink bows tied around their arming mechanisms.
Administration apologists are now banking on the David Kay report, crying to all and sundry that it will put these "questions" to rest. Not unless it's delivered wrapped around bricks of weapons-grade plutonium with 'property of S. Hussein' stamped in the side, it won't.

There's more.


 

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Liar Liar, QED

Posted by Ogged
on 09.05.03

Except for my recent apodictic demonstration of the unelectability of Dennis Kucinich, I've been sliding into pop trivia. Ok, back on track! Let's take a look at this argument by Ted Hinchman.

From a deliberative ['So where do we go from here?'] perspective, you can't be 'anti-war' at this point. That's like being 'anti-breakup' months after your lover has dumped you. It's sheer pathology, a failure to live in reality. "Where are the WMD?" and "More troops killed since the war than during!" are like "Bet she's sorry she dumped me now!" No: her dumping you was one thing, her present problems are something else -- they don't entail that she wants you back. Her overtures of friendship don't turn back time.

Maybe Ted is just engaging in semantic niggling: you can't be anti-war after the war, because there's no war to be anti-. But I don't think that's what he's doing. The point seems to be that carping about WMD and troop deaths doesn't move us forward and contributes nothing to the present.

But that assumes, first, that the decisions prior to war were reasonable decisions based on the best available evidence and, second, that the present debate should be divorced from politics.

Given the mountains that were written prior to the war about the administration's apparent sanguinity and the pressure being exerted on our intelligence agencies to provide a basis for invasion, I think it's quite worthwhile to point out that those opposed to the war (reminder: I supported it) seem to have been correct.

Foreign policy is not, after all, decided in a town meeting. It's the arena in which the executive branch has the greatest discretion. Therefore, the credibility and reliability of the administration are crucial considerations for any citizen in evaluating a course of action: "do I trust these people to do what they say they will do?" "do I believe them when they say X is a threat?" "do I think they understand the likely reaction in the region?" These, and similar questions, are operative for most citizens when they evaluate foreign policy. If, by saying that the administration proceeded irresponsibly or incompetently, advocates can convince others not to support the administration's next step, then they've argued well and legitimately for their position.

Furthermore, insofar as presidential actions are always political actions, those who would like to see this administration replaced are justified (perhaps duty bound) to highlight its failures. The administration can always counter that it made the best decision possible given conditions that obtained at the time, but critics would be foolish to "negotiate with themselves," as our President if fond of saying.


 

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No Mas Already

Posted by Ogged
on 09.05.03

Ok, this is absolutely my last Britney Spears post. A question: none of you really finds Britney's attractive, do you?

I went searching for something I remembered someone writing about her that seemed just right: "there's something wrong with her face." Luckily, this is the internet, and even if the original (New Yorker) piece isn't online, someone has posted the relevant section.

And, again because this is the internet, a commenter on that site pithily explains Britney's appeal.

POST BOOBIES PLZ

 

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Nudity, Crime, Hilarity

Posted by Ogged
on 09.04.03

Agenda Bender links so we don't have to.



 

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One Last Time

Posted by Ogged
on 09.04.03

I've been listening to Malinky for the past few weeks and I like them more and more. Do yourself a favor and check out 3 Ravens. There are clips on the Malinky site and also a few in this post.


 

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Thanks

Posted by Ogged
on 09.04.03

A very big thank you to everyone who left comments about interviewing and hiring. We made an offer that was accepted today and we're quite pleased. I printed out the comment thread and used it to help me draw up my interview questions. It really was a big help.

But, good lord, could somebody have warned me how miserable it would be to tell the people who didn't get the job?


 

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Tax law ain't for beginners

Posted by Unf
on 09.04.03

Having been accused of failing to substantiate my ridicule of this post, I thought perhaps I should put my money where my mouth is.

Our intrepid author makes several contentions about federal tax law (I'm going to ignore the points about state taxes).

1) John can defer a part of his considerable salary and so defer the tax on that income for many years. True enough, though in order not to recognize deferred compensation as income in the year its granted, you have to take the credit risk that you won't get the income when its due. You may defer your tax recognition, but you risk that you never get the money in the event your employer goes bankrupt.

2) John can convert ordinary income into capital gains through the use of stock options. As any tax lawyer knows, the spread between the exercise price of an employee stock option and the price of the underlying security at the time of exercise is taxed as ordinary income. So stock options in fact don't allow you to convert OI to capital gains.

3) John is wealthy and can afford to hire tax lawyers and accountants to help him avoid taxes . Sure, whatever. But the interesting question is not whether someone can afford to try to avoid income taxes, but whether he will have any success in doing so. And the opportunities for (legally) avoiding taxes are actually quite few under our current tax regime. We treat death and taxes the same way for a reason, after all.

4) "If worst comes to worst he might put it into a tax-exempt Virgin Islands business or possibly move his wealth altogether out of the United States." This is just incoherent. American citizens are taxed on all of their income, no matter where they live or where that income is earned. There's no such thing as a tax-exempt Virgin Islands business. The Virgin Islands may have bank secrecy laws that facilitate tax evasion, but tax evasion is still against the law all the same. You can always renounce your American citizenship, of course. But Congress, mindful of this tactic, has made this move both very difficult and very expensive.

The scandal in our tax system is not that we can't collect taxes from rich people. Its that we don't do enough to prevent the fairly obviously illegal schemes various rich people use to justify their non-payment of taxes. Its also that there are all sorts of perfectly legal ways for people to reduce their taxes which have little economic or fiscal logic. Like the difference between the tax rates on capital gains and ordinary income, the mortage interest deduction, accelerated depreciation deductions, blah, blah, blah. But I think I've said enough.


 

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Canahiti, Here I Come

Posted by Ogged
on 09.04.03

The Energy Saving Trust runs an annual photo competition to document the effects of climate change. (Some of the photos seem to document plain old weather, but I'm no scientist.) Either way, there are cool pictures.


 

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Getting even

Posted by Bob
on 09.04.03

Slate's William Saletan supports the principle of death penalty but is bothered by the "chain of death" that includes Paul Hill:

So, here's where things stand: People are threatening to kill officials in Florida for killing Paul Hill for killing John Britton for killing unborn babies. And if they fulfill those threats, you can be sure that they'll be killed, too.

It's the terrible mathematics of murder: anytime someone (the government killers or the anti-choice killers) perceives the number of killings to be odd, that someone will add one more so that the number is even. That's what getting even means. The anti-choice killers start their count with the abortion, while the government killers start theirs with Paul Hill. n+1, n+3, ...


 

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Because because because in summary

Posted by Bob
on 09.04.03

From an NYT story today on computer-automated grading of essays on standardized tests:

For example, a high score almost always contains topically relevant vocabulary, a variety of sentence structures, and the use of cue terms like "in summary," for example, and "because" to organize an argument. By analyzing 50 of these features in a sampling of essays on a particular topic that were scored by human beings, the system can accurately predict how the same human readers would grade additional essays on the same topic.

None of the current algorithms can detect illogical arguments, though. GMAT essays are already read by computers -- and by human readers -- and the computer and the readers agree on scores 97 - 98% of the time.

Having the computers write the essays is the obvious next step (the ultimate in "teaching to the test"). Currently 40% of Ogged's entries are written by an algorithm which assembles sentences according to a frequency analysis and a list of fifteen key words, including political, RSS, and Aguilera.


 

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Misters Sympathy

Posted by Ogged
on 09.04.03
There's something I've been meaning to say for a while regarding so-called Jewish influence on US foreign policy. Do you really think Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld give a shit about the Jews? (For a more thoughtful discussion of the issue, read this Ian Buruma piece.)

 

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Cheddar?

Posted by Ogged
on 09.04.03

To this, I merely say, amen.



 

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Britney, Really Lowering the Bar

Posted by Ogged
on 09.04.03
When asked about how her image has changed from when she was a squeaky clean Mouseketeers, Spears said, "I think I'm still clean living. I mean I don't go home and have orgies or anything like that."
Note to emailing copy editors: this and the entry just below are entirely excerpts.

 

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Lowering the Bar

Posted by Ogged
on 09.04.03
Dr. Laura said something along that lines of although homosexual acts are a sin, homosexuals as individuals must be treated with respect, just as we treat with respect people who violate the Sabbath, don't honor their parents, and engage in other sins. This certainly didn't sound to me like the attitude of a gay-basher.

 

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Can I sell you a car?

Posted by Unf
on 09.03.03

So in the last two weeks, my car's battery has died, one of the brake pads has completely worn out and a horrible grinding noise has developed in one of the wheels, and some sort of bizarre clanking noise is coming from the underside of the car. And my car has all of 60,000 miles on it. Blast! I finally took it to the dealer for various repairs (plus the 60,000 mile service) tonight. As I was waiting for a ride home, I found it very difficult not to look at all the shiny new cars in the showroom. Its going to take all of my self-control not to tell them to just bag the repairs and order a new set of wheels.


 

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Oops

Posted by Ogged
on 09.03.03
I went to see Crossroads and she repays me with this?
CARLSON: A lot of entertainers have come out against the war in Iraq. Have you?
SPEARS: Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.
CARLSON: Do you trust this president?
SPEARS: Yes, I do.
CARLSON: Excellent. Do you think he's going to win again?
SPEARS: I don't know. I don't know that.
Know this Britney, Christina Aguilera rules!

 

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Cobb

Posted by Ogged
on 09.03.03

I thought my blogroll wasn't working properly when I went to click over to Cobb and it wasn't there. But for some reason, I hadn't added it. Now I have.


 

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Not Even A Rental?

Posted by Ogged
on 09.03.03

Say it isn't so!

Just got back from seeing Bend It Like Beckham -- destined to become this year's My Big Fat Greek Wedding, with all the positives and negatives that title confers.

I was really looking forward to renting Bend it, but Big Fat was one of the worst, most annoying movies I've ever seen. If the group of people who've seen both and hated Big Fat exists, can you tell me whether Bend it is worth seeing?


 

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Unnfogloviad

Posted by Ogged
on 09.03.03

I know there are geography buffs in the audience. Geoff Cohen decided he was tired of seeing maps of Europe with all our screwed up English names on them, so he made a map with the names the inhabitants use.


 

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People, people...

Posted by Ogged
on 09.03.03
"I come from a family of small bladders."
...
"Sometimes desperation will require a stop in the cornfields"...Gas station restrooms typically have outdoor entrances that allow him to duck in directly from his car, thus avoiding the meet-and-greet at an urgent time. "Anonymity can be a wonderful thing," he says.
...
He also likes beef jerky, teriyaki and pepper. And sunflower seeds. Good snacks, all of them. But they are problematic in the car because they can get stuck in [his] teeth and he doesn't always have a toothpick or floss. Just time, space and a challenge. "I can drive for miles trying to work the food out of my teeth with my tongue."
Political demonization is pretty effective. Hop over to the forums on Lucianne or Free Republic and Tom Daschle is, simply, Dashole. You begin to wonder, after a while, what he's done to be so hated. Well, nothing. I'm not sure when, exactly, it dawned on me that most of the political commentary I read, from the left and the right, is written by people who don't entirely believe what they're writing. They understand political discourse as a contest and affect fairness only insofar as it's strategically necessary or beneficial. They can afford to do that, because, as a class, they have very little at stake in any outcome. In fact, that's true of most bloggers and blog readers. What the government does affects us a bit economically, but otherwise, only distantly. That seemed to change with 9/11, but as that day has receded in memory, the comfortable are feeling comfortable again and the game has resumed. Most of us have likely been in a group or class where someone, usually, but not always, black, makes a comment about politics, taxes, or the police that makes everyone say, "whoa." Sometimes that's because of the simple overt racism of what's described, but I wonder how often it's because they describe some concrete way in which government policy makes a massive difference in people's lives. We don't expect that, and it re-orients us, if only for a while. It's not that I think political discourse has gotten worse. Indeed, in the article on Benjamin Franklin Bache I linked yesterday, you can read that Bache was said to be
"notoriously in the pay of France" and "the prostitute son of oil and lamp-black" who should be dealt with like "a TURK, A JEW, A JACOBIN, OR A DOG"
You read that and you think maybe this is the golden age. And for chatter, it may be. But I want to shut up forever when I begin to think that I'm participating in some grand debating tournament in which the educated and rich espouse theories which are then tested on the poor and disenfranchised. I hope it's not as bad as that. But I'm only hoping.

 

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After Sunrise

Posted by Bob
on 09.03.03

From the NY Post's Page Six (which, incidentally, opens with big, important news about (who else?) Paris Hilton):

UMA Thurman and Ethan Hawke's big split will be announced officially in two weeks when Hawke gets back from Paris, where he's shooting the sequel to "Before Sunrise." "They haven't spoken about divorce . . . yet," said a pal of the couple. "But Uma has heard all the stories and yes, things are very rocky right now. Ethan's away and they're planning to deal [with a formal separation] when he gets back. Right now they are officially separated by an ocean but that is all."

First reaction: they're splitting up? But they were so good together in GATTACA. Remember? She knows about his issues and still wants his gametes!

Second reaction: WHAT?? There's no possibility that a sequel to Before Sunrise is a good idea. I can think of no more eloquent movie about open endings and (as my literary-scholar girlfriend had to point out to me) death. Before Sunrise is one of those cleverly inverted movies in which every scene is infused with a lovely, giddy sadness because of what we know will happen in the final scene. After Sunrise would have to resolve the final, crucial ambiguity of Before Sunrise -- and wreck it. (I'm already guessing that Ethan visits Julie Delpy in Paris.) But Linklater's really great, and he understands what makes Before Sunrise work -- right?

(I know, there's some Ethan-Julie scene in Waking Life. It's part of why I still haven't brought myself to see it.)

(There's more about the Ethan-Uma split at the Page Six story, including stuff about the amazing woman whom Ethan finds sexier than Uma Thurman.)


 

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Defeat

Posted by Ogged
on 09.02.03

For those who care about tables vs. CSS.

I almost had the CSS layout the way I wanted it, but then I noticed that selecting text caused everything from the selection point to the end of each div class to be selected. Not such a good thing in a blog. (If you want to see another blog that behaves this way, take a look at Unqualified Offerings.)

I'm giving up on CSS positioning for now. So much for coding elegance.


 

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The Whole Package

Posted by Ogged
on 09.02.03
Is it unfair? Am I taking it out of context? Maybe. But just maybe.
Some were returning to high school, while others, like Lauren Hanono, were going back to college. In a day and a half, Ms. Hanono, 19, of Lawrence, N.Y., crammed in a hair coloring, a haircut, a manicure and body wax and an eyebrow wax. It's service she said she couldn't find in Bloomington, Ind., where she is a junior at Indiana University.
"It's like roughing it," said Ms. Hanono, a communications major.
...
"I feel like high school changes you so much," said Samantha Chaplin, 15. Earlier that day, her brown hair had received rivers of blond highlights, and a slight man named Sid had plucked her eyebrows with a piece of twisted thread. "When we were in middle school, it was the outfit," she said. "Now, it's the whole package."
It's not a trend and I don't care about any wider significance. There were girls like this when I went to high school. We thought they were shallow then. But it sure is nice when the NY Times gets good quotes and we can post them and laugh.

 

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Firebird

Posted by Ogged
on 09.02.03

Do you know about Mozilla Firebird (it's a sleeker, faster, nicer version of Mozilla)? If not, give it a try. Just download, unzip and run; no installation program to clutter your computer. And be sure to check out the extensions, some of which do very cool things.


 

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Campus Watch

Posted by Ogged
on 09.02.03

A while back, I avoided discussing Daniel Pipes. If you're interested, Jacob Levy has discussed him plenty.


 

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Dennis the Menace

Posted by Unf
on 09.02.03

I was watching the Simpsons for a while yesterday as it rained and rained during my day off. One of the espisodes I saw was the one where Bart gets an elephant. I've always had mixed feelings about this episode - it has a lot of really good jokes, but the premise seems a little strained.

However, one of the best lines occurs at the end of the episode when Homer, having come to rescue Stampy the Elephant from Blackheart, finds his legs stuck in a tar pit. He then remarks, "Naw, that's OK. I'm pretty sure I can struggle my way out. First I'll just reach in and pull my legs out. Now I'll pull my arms out with my face." Upon which he disappears into the tar, and needs to be rescued by Stampy.

All I could think of when I saw this was, this must be exactly what it's like to argue with someone who thinks Dennis Kucinich could be elected President. You get sucked in and in and eventually disappear into the mire. My advice - don't step in the tar in the first place.


 

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Blessed Footnotes

Posted by Unf
on 09.02.03

Actually, instead of David Talbot's superb piece in Salon, you could read the much longer book about Ben Bache's newspaper. Its described here. No mention of it seems to have made its way into Talbot's piece.


 

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How soon they forget

Posted by Bob
on 09.02.03

This is like no grad-student life I ever knew. I guess that's what happens when the artist goes ahead and graduates.


 

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Blessed Ben Bache

Posted by Ogged
on 09.02.03

"We," the educated, liberal elite like to believe that we are the defenders of liberty in this country. But is there any doubt that, as a group, we would have little effect if not for the fact that the great majority of Americans--those red-staters who seem like foreigners--prize their freedom and keep the government in check?

That's what I was thinking as I came to the end of David Talbot's superb piece on Benjamin Franklin and his fascinating grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache. Excerpts can't do the story justice. Go read. (You do not need to be a Salon subscriber to read their stories; just watch an ad and you can read all you want).


 

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Mmm, Cole Haan

Posted by Ogged
on 09.02.03

Crede experto: If you can't figure out that the steaks you put on the grill twenty minutes ago, which have taken on the aspect of old shoes, cannot possibly be the 120 your (broken! broken, you moron!) meat thermometer says they are, you will be having very tough steaks for dinner.


 

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Too Rich To Tax

Posted by Ogged
on 09.02.03

Here's an interesting argument.

As a point of political rhetoric it makes sense to talk about how the rich should pay tax. But as a practical matter it seems virtually impossible to collect tax from the rich, except perhaps for property tax. Could it be that George W. Bush cuts taxes for the rich not because has so many rich friends but rather because he recognizes the impracticality of actually collecting?

Philip Greenspun describes in convincing detail just how easy it is for the very rich to avoid paying taxes (it's an amusing read). But is he really arguing that that's a reason to forget about taxing the rich and to increase taxes that are "easy to collect," like (the regressive) sales tax?


 

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Problems

Posted by Ogged
on 09.02.03

My apologies, my hosting provider seems to be having trouble and comments (and my ability to update the blog) aren't working reliably. Hope this makes it onto the site!


 

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Barlow, Bustamante

Posted by Ogged
on 09.02.03

Like everyone else, I'm linking to Ted Barlow's inaugural post as a member of Crooked Timber. Ted has really done the research on Cruz Bustamante's connections to MEChA and his just may be the last word on the issue, and not just in the blogosphere. Also be sure to check out the followups, where some prominent members of the blogosphere don't do themselves any favors.

UPDATE: Maybe not quite the last word. Tacitus grants that Barlow demolishes some disingenuous and weak arguments against Bustamante, but thinks that Barlow hasn't really touched the heart of the case. (Scroll down a bit to see Tacitus's reply.)

YET MORE: The blogosphere in action. Juan Non-Volokh has more solid criticisms of Barlow's post.


 

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Pardon My Dust

Posted by Ogged
on 09.01.03

I'm re-coding the site to replace tables with CSS positioning so 1) the page might look very strange throughout the day and 2) I'm not posting. Hope you're having nice weather and a good holiday!

UPDATE: Well, it's bedtime and I think the site is passable, if not finished (I haven't even touched the archive pages). If you have suggestions or requests about the site design, this would be the time to tell me.


 

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What's This About?

Posted by Ogged
on 09.01.03

Drudge reports,

ABC NEWS has spiked an interview with a close associate of Arnold Schwarzenegger who went on camera and accused the California gubernatorial candidate of making racist comments back in the 1970s, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.
Charges of past racist comments by Schwarzenegger were leveled by Rick Wayne, sources claim, a former bodybuilding star who is now the publisher of the St. Lucia Star.
Wayne, who is black, told ABC NEWS that Schwarzenegger made the comments regarding South Africa's former Apartheid system:
"If you gave these blacks a country to run, they would run it down the tubes," Schwarzenegger allegedly said.
The interview was taped and set for airing but was spiked, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

Schwarzenegger's been having trouble lately, and if there's anything to Wayne's charge, Schwarzenegger is toast. Of course, ABC may have spiked the interview because they didn't think Wayne credible, but that may not matter if anyone else picks up this story.


 

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Good looking teeth

Posted by Unf
on 08.31.03

I saw The Secret Lives of Dentists last night. Notwithstanding the fact that I had to sit in the least comfortable movie theater in all of creation, I thought it was really good. Its the most interesting and compelling argument for traditional family values that I've seen or read in a long time. Plus, it stars Hope Davis, who I think is really hot.

I'd maybe even say it's the best movie I've seen all summer. Of course, my field of comparison is somewhat limited, seeing as how I somehow missed Charlie's Angels 2 and Gigli.


 

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About Time I Got Some Recognition

Posted by Ogged
on 08.31.03

I am, apparently, the poster boy for unsophisticated public debate. I await my prize. (Though I may have to settle for a blissful existence in the Land of Obvious.)


 

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Breathe easier

Posted by Bob
on 08.31.03

"Why would you regulate [carbon dioxide,] a pollutant that is an inert gas that is vital to plant photosynthesis and that people exhale when they breathe?" said Eron Shosteck, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a Washington-based car industry lobby. "That's not a pollutant."

Wow, that's not stupid. Because nothing that is a human waste product could possibly harm humans. (Found here.)


 

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And I Mean Guarantee

Posted by Ogged
on 08.31.03

Appearance of impropriety? Never heard of it.

The head of a company vying to sell voting machines in Ohio told Republicans in a recent fund-raising letter that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

 

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Snarkoblogging

Posted by Ogged
on 08.31.03

Just a great post by Kieran Healy on all the faux lifestyle trends being discovered this summer.



 

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